MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA
Democratic Pa r t y Cha i rman Denni s McDonald has filed federal paperwork to challenge incumbent U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, allowing McDonald to start raising money for the race. McDonald said he may decide over the next month not to run, but wanted to open an account to start accepting the donations that he said are coming in without solicitation. "I have not made a final decision yet," McDonald said in an interview. Th e c o n t e s t b e twe e n McDonald and Rehberg has been brewing for a while. McDonald, backed by the Montana Democratic Party that he chairs, has been sending out a steady stream of criticisms of Rehberg. McDonald has criticized Rehberg for voting against the economic stimulus package. And the Montana GOP, protecting the party's top elected official, has responded with its own daily e-mail criticisms of McDonald mocking his perceived support of wasteful stimulus money. Rehberg and McDonald have tangled several times in recent years, and at one point Rehberg called on McDonald to resign for an attack the Republican thought was unfair. The Federal Elect ions Commi s s i o n s h ows t h a t McDonald filed the statement of candidacy report last week to run for the office in 2010. His paperwork is dated Jan. 15. Rehberg coasted to re-election in 2008, a year that was not favorable to many other Republicans, after Democrats had trouble coalescing around a challenger. The Democrats' early favorite to challenge Rehberg was forced to drop out of the race due to health reasons, and some speculated McDonald would run. Instead Helena attorney Jim Hunt entered the race late, but shocked many by losing in the primary to John Driscoll who raised no money and was later trounced by Rehberg. Rehberg was first elected to Congress in 2000. Before that he was lieutenant governor and a state legislator. McDonald said he thinks Rehberg can be beat this time around. "People want someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves and solve problems rather than simply engage in partisan politics," McDonald said. Rehberg's campaign said McDonald is the partisan, pointing to his work running the Montana Democratic Party. "Montanans don't want two solid years of McDonald's petty political attacks, they want solutions on issues like jobs, the cost of health care, rural education and energy," said Rehberg campaign manager Tyler Matthews. McDonald, who has not run for office before, said that so far $12,000 to $13,000 has been donated to the campaign effort. "It's amazing to me that has occurred without even making an effort," McDonald said. "It's humbling in a way."